Discombobulated: When Your World Goes Awry

by Patti Richter

As a child, I always hoped to draw the “cozy cottage” card when playing The Game of Life. It was not until years later, as I began unpacking boxes in a much smaller home than what we had left behind, that I realized the folly of my game plan.

It may not have been a life-threatening ordeal, but my new challenge sure felt like preparation for the next life. The cross-country move, saying goodbye to family and friends, and down-sizing to that interim home tilted my world a few degrees off its axis.

As I had packed, my mother-in-law warned me, “It’s much easier to move up than down.” Her words proved true as I tossed perfectly good furniture and household items overboard. I commiserated with America’s settlers who abandoned bedsteads and pianofortes alongside wagon trails to lighten their load.

I wasn’t the only one struggling. For weeks, my husband had repeated Luke 12:15 (NIV) like a mantra to console himself: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  His power tools and lawn equipment didn’t make the keep-list, either.

Just one week into the unpacking, I had thrown everything else aside in the interest of making our new place comfortable and homey. But I soon realized it would take months of undivided attention to accomplish that goal. This was a luxury I did not have, as I believed God had brought us to this place for a better purpose, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). I knew my time was not my own. I needed to center my priorities on however the Lord led me to serve.

I used to think ill of King Solomon for his priorities. He spent seven years in building God’s temple. But after it was complete, he then spent thirteen years on his own house (1 Kings 6:38 – 7:1). Now, after moving and becoming consumed with me, myself, and dozens of unopened boxes, I realized Solomon actually did have his priorities right: He put God’s house first.

Whenever life takes a turn, whether toward adventure or misadventure, it’s easy to become self-focused and lay aside the things that really matter. While our faith might be fully functional when life is in order, new circumstances can disrupt our “holy habits.” Bible study, devotions, corporate worship, fellowship, outreach, and service to others can get put on hold or completely drop off our radar screen if we’re not careful.

We can too easily fall for the lie: if I can just get this list of things done, I will turn my attention to more spiritual matters.

In one of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia books, The Silver Chair, a girl named Jill is summoned to Aslan’s country on a mission to find a missing Narnian prince. But Jill keeps getting distracted and forgets to look for the signs she’d been told to watch for. Fear of the strange surroundings, along with natural desires for creature comforts—food, warmth, clothing—become stumbling blocks to completing what she had set out to do.

The apostle Paul mentioned losing a co-laborer who abandoned their mission, “because he loved this world” (2 Timothy 4:10 NIV). These words finally nudged me to get unpacked enough to be functional and out the door. Even better? Get out the door and let the boxes wait.

[Christ] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.   2 Corinthians 5:15 NIV

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Discombobulated: When Your World Goes Awry – encouragement from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an

indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What challenges have made you lose sight of important priorities? How did you rectify the situation?

What’s Your Pleasure?

by Karen DeArmond Gardner

How can I describe the glorious smell of coffee in the morning? The scent wafts through the air filling my senses as it brews. Coffee brings me pleasure and comfort whether it’s a cold morning curled up in my blanket or a Texas summer day. Nothing says pleasure like that first sip of coffee from my favorite mug.

I like my coffee rich and black. No foo-foo coffee for me.

I’ll saunter down the coffee isle in my grocery store just to breathe in the scent of coffee. The fragrance of coffee is pure bliss. Some days I can’t wait to go to bed just so I can get up and drink my coffee in the quiet solitude of early morning.

Coffee is also relational. The rise of coffee shops all over the world reveal how we love to sit and chat over coffee. Many a heart has been bared in those moments. Laughter, secrets, tears, love and fights, all shared over a cup of coffee.

A few years ago, as I contemplated what to give up for our church-wide fast, I asked God what He wanted me to give up for three weeks. I suggested, sweets, television, ice cream, food—but only one word dropped into my mind… coffee.  

COFFEE.

Surely You don’t mean coffee? I love my coffee. I need my coffee.

Exactly.

I bargained, I whined, yet He didn’t budge. Either I would be obedient or I wouldn’t. It’s not like I love coffee above God. Or do I? I was about to find out.

I had a slight headache at day three and the brain fog that had been a problem for several months, was now horrible. I was a bit grumpy. Okay, maybe more than just a bit. I was frustrated with God, wondering what His point was in this. I didn’t feel closer to Him.

My daughter wasn’t thrilled when I bit her head off during a conversation. “You should have warned me you were off coffee,” she said.

I begged God to clear my mind. Nothing. Why did You take my one comfort and pleasure away?

Because it brings you pleasure and comfort.

 What? Oh!

Could it be He wanted to be my pleasure and comfort? Grabbing my Bible, I scanned the concordance and noticed most of the verses relating to pleasure were about sin and wrong doing, with the exception for Psalm 16:11 (ESV):

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Whoa.

Now He had my attention. Clarity cleared my foggy brain. I saw the greater purpose of finding my pleasure in Him. Did I look forward to my time with Him as much as I enjoyed my coffee? Did I stop and breathe in His presence? Did I anticipate going to bed so I could wake up to share our morning together? Point taken.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3 (ESV)

Gulp.

Coffee isn’t my comfort. He is.

By time you read this, my fast will be over. I’ll be back to sipping coffee, appreciating what I’ve taken for granted. But I’ll also bask in His presence through my cloudy mind and realize the fast wasn’t about coffee. It was an object lesson on who my source is and where I find my comfort.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ESV

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What’s Your Pleasure? – wisdom from Karen DeArmond Gardner on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

karen dearmond gardnerAbout the author: Karen DeArmond Gardner is a 30-year survivor of domestic violence. She has spent 15 years on her own healing journey and nearly that long helping others find freedom, restoration, and redemption.

Karen is a facilitator in Freedom Ministry/Sozo and directs the Women’s Ministry at Catch the Fire DFW Church. She also facilitates Mending the Soul, a group that leads women through the trauma of their past into healing and wholeness. She serves on the Board of Directors for Arukah House, a transitional home for women coming out of sex trafficking and abuse.

Karen blogs at Crack the Silence and can be found at her Crack the Silence Facebook page. She continues to be a helpful contact and resource for abused women in her church and community.

Join the conversation: What’s your favorite pleasure? Has God asked you to give it up for a season? How did it change your relationship with Him?

Freedom from Overload

by Kristine Brown @kristinebrown43

“Then David continued, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.’” 1 Chronicles 28:20 NLT

My writing space, also known as my office, doubles as a guest bedroom.

Or maybe I should say, our guest bedroom doubles as my office.

So, as I sit at my makeshift desk, peeking out the window at raindrops bouncing off piles of leaves in the yard, something out of the corner of my eye begs for my attention. I’m trying not to look, but I give in to the pressure. It’s the overstuffed closet I’ve been meaning to clean out for months.

I immediately turn from my writing task and scan my monthly planner. Maybe I can squeeze it in between work and dinner one day this week? Or better yet, let me work on revamping my entire schedule. Something has to give, so I can fit everything in and finally enjoy a clean closet! Planning helps me feel more in control, so I resolve to make a new plan. Again.

Organizing, analyzing, prioritizing, scheduling: I’m a planner by nature. I love the idea of becoming more organized. But even though organizing the schedule can be fun for a detail-oriented girl like me, all that planning doesn’t leave me feeling any more at peace.

I know deep down the best thing to do is just clean the closet.

When David passed along the assignment of building the temple to Solomon, he began by encouraging his son with this advice, “For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought.” A task like that came with a lot of detailed directions, too! Maybe David knew Solomon would feel overloaded and need words of wisdom to help him get it done:

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly” (1 Chronicles 28:20 NLT).

David gave Solomon sound advice in his instruction for building the temple. After encouraging Solomon to be strong and courageous, he then added these three simple words.

“Do the work.”

We can learn an important lesson from this statement. Sometimes we try to find solutions for our overload, but it just adds more to the to-do list than what’s already there. When instead, we should stop trying to give our schedule an overhaul and just tackle the tasks – one at a time.

I don’t know about you, but I can make things so complicated. That’s why I love it when God keeps it simple, as He does here in this message to Solomon. After his instructions, David goes on to share the best news of all. “He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work…is finished correctly.”

When I do my small part, God will make sure the work is finished correctly. What freedom!

So, the next time a seemingly overwhelming job taunts you, remember today’s verse. Let it guide you through the temptation to spend an hour rearranging your schedule or creating a new to-do list. Instead, spend an hour tackling that task. Just doing the work will free us from the pile of jobs that overload us.

Now if you’ll excuse me for an hour or so, I have a closet to clean.

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Freedom from Overload – insight from @KristineBrown43 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

kristine brownAbout the author: Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart, sharing insight with her readers in relatable  ways. Her lessons  highlight God’s powerful Word and redemptive grace. Check out Kristine’s weekly devotions and other resources at kristinebrown.net.

Do you ever question whether you measure up? Kristine’s book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan,  learn the solution to a battle all women face. Through practical Bible teaching, find contentment in your God-given uniqueness and take simple steps to claim victory over comparison. Learn how to say “I’m over it” and mean it!

Join the conversation: What work do you need to accomplish today?

Where are You?

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

“But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?'” Genesis 3:9 (NIV)

The final years of my mother’s life were filled with health issues, resulting in surgeries, complications, physical therapy rehabilitation, and pain. In the last months, dementia wrapped her in a haze of befuddlement and fear.

Each day, when I entered the “memory” unit of the care facility, before I even saw my mother, I heard her pleading voice reverberate down the corridor, “Please! Please! Won’t somebody help me?” Even when I sat beside her, held her hand, and assured her of my presence, she continued to yell for help. During those difficult days, I often prayed, God, where are you? How does my mother’s suffering glorify you? When will you answer her cry for rescue?

During challenging times, it’s not unusual to ask, “God, where are you?” We want an immediate response to questions that sometimes have no ready answers. We question God’s timing, wanting to know the outcome of the situation prior to its resolution. But have you ever wondered what it’s like for God when we distance ourselves from him?

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they experienced fear for the first time. Suddenly, they understood the consequences of sin—separation from God. Prior to sin, they eagerly awaited God and enjoyed fellowship with Him in the cool, lush garden that was their home. After disobeying, they feared God’s reaction and hid from their Creator.

Even before he asked “Where are you?” God knew his relationship with Adam and Eve had changed.

Many days, God asks me the same question, “Where are you?” Chores capture my attention. Deadlines loom. Emails, social networking, phone conversations, or TV watching eat up valuable hours with little return. And God waits patiently, knocking on my heart’s door, asking where I am and why I haven’t spent time with Him.

Where are you? A good question. Where am I in my spiritual walk? Where am I in my prayer life? Where am I in Bible study? Where am I in sharing the Good News? Sometimes I am hiding because I’ve allowed unconfessed sin to erect a colossal barrier. Other days, I am simply lazy and undisciplined, navigating life on my own terms, seeking wisdom elsewhere, and fearing things that may never happen. Yet God patiently waits, longing for special times of connection with me.

Sometimes we forget that God created us specifically for the purpose of having fellowship with him. The word picture in Revelation 3:20 of Jesus sitting at the dinner table sharing a meal with us provides a reminder of the warm fellowship afforded us, if we’re willing to take advantage of it.

But too often we ignore His offer of intimate friendship. God stands by waiting to impart wisdom, encourage us, comfort, and help us with problems and struggles. He misses us when we remain distant. But instead of seeking him and looking forward to time with him, we hide behind duties, obligations, events, relationships, or self-created busyness that we consider more urgent or important. We fall into bed at night exhausted, and God is still waiting, sad that we have ignored him yet another day, whispering, “I’m here. Where are you?”

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” Revelation 3:20 (NIV).

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Where are You? Thoughts on #FollowingGod in the Tough Times from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: What keeps you from fellowship with the Father?

Strength in Rest

by Jeanne Gowen Dennis @HeritageTruthTV

 It seems for most of my adult life I’ve been trying to become the Proverbs 31 woman. Through her industriousness and creativity she took amazing care of her family, succeeded in business, and even helped the poor. Just think about the organization skills she needed to get everything done! What self-discipline she exercised every day! What confidence she must have had! All qualities I struggle to own.

As a creative person, I’ve had to face the fact that my natural tendencies fall on the opposite side of the spectrum from hers. It takes all the strength I can muster to stick to a daily schedule, keep everything in order, and disengage from creative activities early enough to get to bed on time.

Am I alone in this? Please tell me I’m not the only one!

When I become discouraged, I often quote Paul’s words to myself: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). But I have to remind myself that God will give me the promised strength providing I stay in His will.

How can I know God’s will? I’m not talking about the big question, “What is God’s will for my life?” I know the answer to that one. Jesus said God wants me to love Him with my whole heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love my neighbor as myself (Luke 10:27). That’s His will for all of us.

But how can I know God’s particular will for each day, each moment? That requires relationship, and relationship takes time to develop and grow.

I know what you’re thinking. If time management causes me so much grief, how will I find time to develop a deeper relationship with God? With the self-discipline I don’t have? No, I’ll do it with the strength He gives me.

I may seem to be talking in circles here, but that’s exactly how it works. When I spend time reading the Bible and praying, when I turn my thoughts toward God, I receive His power, His wisdom, and the desire to do His will (Philippians 2:13). It’s not a matter of doing more but of resting more in Him.

Resting in Him brings amazing results. For one thing, I find I can get more of the most important things done. When I start the day with God, my priorities shift. His desires become my desires.

I also experience less stress. He gives me the wisdom to see tasks, difficult circumstances, and other people’s requests through His eyes.

Most of all, He fills me with joy that carries me through tough circumstances, disappointments, and even tragedies.

Sure I still get upset, angry, or frustrated when things go wrong. I still cry and grieve when someone gets hurt or dies. I still wonder what He’s doing when I’m laid low with physical pain or illness when so many tasks remain undone. But deep inside, He holds me together because of the intimate love we share, and I have the inexplicable peace that comes from knowing I belong to Him.

So if you struggle as I do, take heart. It doesn’t take much self-discipline to read a few verses of Scripture and visit with God about your day. When you do, He’ll fill you with the desire for more of His Word and more time with Him. You’ll find your priorities shifting. And without even trying, you’ll become a little bit more like that Proverbs 31 woman. In Jesus’ strength, found by resting in Him, there’s hope for us all.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28 NASB

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Strength in Rest – insight on #FollowingGod from Jeanne Dennis, @HeritageTruthTV on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jeanne DennisAbout the author: An award-winning author of a dozen books, Jeanne Dennis hosts Heritage of Truth TV and is a commissioned Colson Fellow and Centurion. Through her writing and online ministry, she encourages Christian families to live biblically in our confused culture. She and her husband of over 40 years serve actively in their local church and enjoy spending time with their family, including three amazing grandchildren.

Have you ever wanted to witness the Red Sea opening or the walls of Jericho falling? Jeanne’s book, Bible KidVentures Stories of Danger and Courage takes you into the middle of the action of your favorite Bible stories. The lives of Moses, Rahab, Jehoshaphat, and early church leaders take on compelling excitement through up-close-and-personal accounts. In each of the four choose-your-own-ending stories, you decide how the story ends!

Join the conversation: What have you experienced when you have rested in God?

 

Rethinking My Priorities

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

Years ago, the little booklet “My Heart, Christ’s Home” challenged me to move from viewing Christ as a guest in my heart to giving Him full ownership and control of my life. One morning I woke up with that analogy on my mind.

I thought about my literal house as a picture of my soul. I imagined how my priorities might clash with His if He came to help me bring order to my home.

Here is my imagined interaction with Christ:

“Let’s attack the front porch. Everyone sees it,” I said. “We can power wash and freshen the paint for instant impact.”

Christ shook His head and looked in the direction of my desk.

“No one sees my desk,” I pushed back.

“But you spend a lot of time there,” He said. “Your life will flow better if you cleaned out the distractions and organized your priorities.”

“My desk overpowers me,” I whined. “I don’t know how to bring order to it.”

“Will you let me help you?” His warm eyes sparkled.

 I wanted order. He’d offered to help. “Yes,” I nodded. 

 We dove in together. He held up papers and asked what I planned to do with the thoughts listed. We laughed and compiled heaps to be filed and tossed. The tedious task flew by as we worked together. He helped me separate the useful from the useless.

The work from my desk flowed the following weeks with ease. Jesus was right. Even though no one saw my desk, they sampled the work that came from it.

“Now are we ready to tackle the porch?” I asked one morning.

“I’d like to see your pantry.”

“My pantry? No one sees the pantry. The porch is front and center.” When I saw He wasn’t budging I asked, “Could we at least talk about new window treatments for the family room?”

Jesus smiled and said, “I thought you wanted more energy. Let’s look at what you’re eating.”

Inwardly I groaned but accompanied Him to the space. He zeroed in on a shelf of brownie and cake mixes.

“For company,” I stammered. “Look at these.” I pointed to a box of vitamins.

He held up a bottle. “Expiration date: 2002.”

“Uh, did you see my cookbooks?” I whispered.

He thumbed through one, and I noticed that only the dessert section showed use…

As I imagined this exchange, I realized my priorities were in areas other people would see and appreciate. I wanted my efforts to show. But my Lord wants better. He wants me to prosper. He addresses my weak spots, not to shame me but to free me, so I will soar.

Why would I settle for a spiffy renovation when I can experience lasting transformation?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2 NLT).

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Rethinking My Priorities – insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog. debbieWwilson.com

Join the conversation: How might inviting Christ to overhaul your heart improve your life?

Cultivating Carrots and Commitment

by Edie Melson

Here in the Carolinas, spring is beginning to push through the winter grayness. Daffodils and tulips have pushed through the brown ground with welcome pops of color. And everywhere are signs of gardening. As I watch another growing season begin, I’m drawn back to one summer when I thought I’d give gardening a try.

Our boys were young, and we had decided that planting a vegetable garden would be a great idea. Looking back, I can hardly believe we could ever have thought we had the time or energy—while keeping up with three active young boys—for such a consuming project. Oh, the energy of young parents.

But we were optimistic, and so we began. We used an old tiller, plowed up a small bit of ground, and planted a variety of seeds. One of the vegetables I was most looking forward to eating fresh every summer was carrots. When it came time to plant the carrots, I was amazed at how tiny the dark seeds were in the palm of my hand. I remembered the man at the garden center warning us to plant the seeds sparingly, but the seeds were so small, and I really wanted a large crop of carrots. So I sprinkled them thickly in the ground. After all, I figured, if a few were good, more would be better.

Those of you who are expert gardeners are probably beginning to grin, because you already know what happened. I think every single one of those tiny seeds took root and sprouted. As they grew, in a few short weeks they became a tangled mess, fighting for nutrients and space. Then, after lifting a couple of inches of green toward the sun, every single one of those carrots withered and died. I was left with nothing more than the bitter taste of disappointment and discouragement.

As this memory resurfaced, I found myself asking God why it had come to mind. I realized that I’d been agonizing over my busy calendar and God was warning me, once again, that my life was becoming crowded by saying yes to too many things. He was reminding me to plant fewer seeds and take time to nurture them. Otherwise I’d find myself with an empty garden, with nothing but withered endeavors from pouring too many good things into my life.

When Jesus used the metaphor of gardening to teach his disciples, He told them, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2 NASB) Most gardeners know the benefits of pruning. Spent flowers are removed so the plant will not waste energy on developing seeds but continue to flower. Branches on a shrub are thinned so the healthiest branches can get more sun. God does the same for us. He faithfully prunes away those things that will keep us from bearing fruit.

So I ask you, how is your garden? Is it well-ordered and taken care of? Or, in your desire to accomplish much, are you also crowding out any hope of reaping a harvest?

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 NASB

Edie-MelsonAbout the author: Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, While My Child is Away; Prayers for While Were Apart is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Edie’s book, While My Child is Away,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What things are crowding your life?